Sunday, August 16, 2009

Julia and Jalepenos

Yesterday was Julia Child's birthday, it would have been her 97th. Bon Appetit challenged their readers to host a dinner party in her honor, cooking things from her books - and even included several recipes in their August issue. I was excited to try some of her recipes, especially after my recent movie viewing inspiration/obsession, but found myself completely alone for dinner last night, so that just wouldn't do. I couldn't justify eating a whole chicken, and side dish, salad, bread and dessert all alone while toasting the queen of dinner parties. So I did the next best thing and made a cake, Julia's cake, Reine de Saba.

But that was after I tackled some jalapenos.

R1 and I were planning to have a canning party to make delicious candied jalapenos, but alas, the jalapeno crop this year is just not very good. My parents planted a whole row of plants for me, and when I harvested, I got just about a quart and a half. Even the farm markets seem to be curiously absent of my favorite green pepper. So while our party plans were foiled (at least for now - perhaps we can locate some more peppers somewhere), I decided to try and candy can what few I had.

My mouth was watering as I sliced a bowlful of the crispy, dragon green peppers, but I just wasn't sure how they were going to turn out. The solution to fill the jars with was 3 parts sugar and 1 part vinegar brought to a syrupy boil. Boiling vinegar is fast becoming one of the pungent smells that I rather love, due to all the pickling canning I've been doing lately. After the syrup cooled in a pool on my stove, I tasted it, and concurred with myself that they indeed were going to taste somewhat like the peppers I had purchased, and have purchased for others, from West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shop which sells at the Milwaukee Public Market. They are so addicting and delicious, and you can add them to just about anything if you love spicy food. I think they are especially good on sandwiches and with eggs.

I was a little disappointed that even though I packed my jars as tightly as I could, the peppers shrunk down so much after their 10 minute hot water bath that jars only appeared 2/3 full. This morning, however, I gently turned them onto their sides and let the syrup make its way around and they did seem to appear a little more full. The proof will most definitely come in the tasting, which I think I'll make myself wait a couple of weeks for. Unless I happen to find more peppers, then I'll have to crack one open right away to make sure the recipe is sound.

Julia's cake was beautiful. Like I've said before, I'm a batter eater - so I knew this was going to be good before it even hit the oven. It had two of my favorite chocolate companions in it too: ground almonds and rum. I really kind of detest rum, even after keeping an open mind and trying it again after watching something on Puerto Rican rums and the whole distillation process... but still, unless it is baked up in some kind of chocolate, I really can do without it. The other exciting thing is that the only leavening in the cake comes from the eggs, not a pinch of baking soda or powder.

It was baked until slightly underdone in a petite 8 inch cake pan - which I love, because it instantly looks so very 50's. And just a hint of frosting, since I think it's going to have a pudding like interior. But since I was dining alone (and really, I have other desserts that I'm still working on eating - like the Pastel Helado that is still taking up residence in my fridge...) I saved it for tonight without even tasting the finished product. Oh, I stood by with my knife ready, but since I'm the only daily dessert eater in my house, I thought I had better wait.

So this evening after I make Julia's chicken, ratatouille, a salad and loaf of bread, I'll finally cut into it and take another picture. I'm very excited to try these recipes, all of which are posted at Bon Appetit, and hopefully the light will be good in the kitchen so I can get some nice photos of my efforts. And I'm even more excited to finally enter the world of Julia Child because really, I don't know what was taking me so long.

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